Reflections on a Year of Dating Cities

I have to admit, this really wasn’t my plan. In fact, I’m not sure I really even had a plan. I knew four things. That the question “is this it?” was whispering softly in the back of my mind, and had been for a while.  That my lifelong dream of living near the ocean still called me.  That I no longer had a building attached to the work I was doing.  And that I’m quite competent at overthinking to the point of annoying myself, and certainly, at times, others.

My sister (who is a logic and decision making master) and I identified that it was my house that was the issue.  She aptly pinned me to the wall saying that even though I loved it, and am one who needs my personal zen home space, I would never make a change until I didn’t have a house and instead I’d overthink myself through another 10+ years in the same place growing more solid roots into my stuckness.  Something like ‘gasp, how dare she, darn it, she’s right’ flew through my mind. A day or two later, we toasted to chasing my dreams and other undefined elements of a better loved future and I put my house up for sale.

Instead of the slow smooth transition I had imagined, I was catapulted into motion when my house sold in 3 days, with a request for a quick close. It was a bit like when you’re so very sore after a workout that you stand at the top of the stairs, knowing it is going to hurt, and just tip yourself forward trusting that your legs will know what to do.  The people in my life were both surprised and uncertain about my plans, and gathered around me in heroic ways.   One friend was with the movers when I couldn’t be and orchestrated an HGTV worthy storage locker set up – the envy of my storage facility ‘neighbors’.     Greeting me with a smile (and a desperately needed hug), I rushed off to facilitate a previously scheduled training, hearing over my shoulder “I told my boss I needed the day off to volunteer for a non-profit”.

Though I don’t yet know where I’ll land, or even if I will land (!), as I reflect on the last year, there and several things that have become clear:

It’s hard to see our courage and bravery when we stick with what’s familiar.   When I tell people about my life they often respond with – ‘wow, you’re brave’.  I dismissed it for the longest time, correcting them with…’no I’m really not’.  What’s the big deal, I thought, yet now I can see it and own it.  Bravery is not just about the big things. It’s also about the little things.  Making any decision that shakes up how you live your life takes courage. Being in motion and trusting yourself to figure it out as you go is brave. Give yourself credit for it.  Even better, take a dopamine bath in it, and spend a few minutes to feel really good about a decision, or how you navigated through something that up front didn’t feel like a slam dunk. Courage snowballs. This shift in my definition of self takes the edge off so many other unknowns. It expands the possibilities and brings a more powerful me to a conversation with an inner critic.  Days of driving across country alone (or whatever it might be) …yep, I got this.   Where have you missed giving yourself enough credit for being brave or showing courage? When you own it, how does it shift your sense of self?

It’s easy to trip on your own boomerang.  My parents were firm believers that you have to be wary of others and not let them get to know anything about you as the world is dangerous and it’s the way to stay safe and protected.  This mindset was how I was raised, was deeply entrenched, and had to be faced down as part of being successful in geographic dating.  Even driving alone on freeway is a group activity. The more that I learned to shift from distrust, caution and worry to curiosity and wonder the more I was gifted with local tips, generous acts, marvelous new characters in my life, and easy negotiations.  And, in turn, the more I felt open, trusting, present, generous, and candidly just an improved wellbeing.  Though I can still quickly conjure up the ‘don’t mess with me’ vibe for when I need it, I wish I’d better understood the consequences of this entrenched outlook, and banished this blanket assumption about the world sooner.

It’s tough to trick the brain. Saying we’re going to be open and trusting doesn’t yield the same results if we’re just giving it lip service. Others pick up on our inauthenticity and incongruence at a visceral level, whether they realize it or not, and their interaction will boomerang back exactly what they perceive.   The loop of your boomerang is based on listening, eye contact, courtesy, smiling first, saying hello as you pass people, being patient, rolling well with the unexpected, offering benefit of the doubt, being authentic, present, open to possibility, working to say yes way more than saying no and a myriad of other factors.   What assumption might be influencing how you view the world? Can you see both sides of the boomerang in your life?

There is great ROI to a healthy relationship with ‘enough’.  The avalanche of incoming messages can make us forget that how we live and the speed at which we live is ours to decide.   Knowing what’s enough keeps us anchored.  Understanding the difference between wants and needs, and the real source of your peace, fulfillment, and contentment is worth a fortune.  Those that render opinions about my life (I lived in 5 places in 2017) attribute it all sorts of ways – as being boring, unimaginable without their stuff, fascinating, carefree, isolating, lonely, hard work, even just odd.  I find elegance and wisdom in its simplicity.

One of my favorite cities (and we’re now on our second date!) fits my ‘enough’.  As I drive in, it elicits a deep exhale and all the static quiets and goes away.  The ROI of my simple life built on a few enough is I am peaceful.  I am enchanted with the visuals, the sounds, and the pace.   Enough is freeing.  It allows time to be outside during all seasons and without heavy winter gear.  It offers space to hear my inner voice.  I don’t want for much when I know what’s enough.

A fascinating theme from conversations with people about their ideal life design is that most tell me they would love to offload a series of things, people and routines and yet feel they can’t or won’t because of how it might look, or how they might be judged, if they were to do or have less.  What’s enough for you – in how you live and how you work?  In what you really need vs. want to support your contentment?  In who you spend time with? In what you’re work products look like?

There’s space for possibility when you don’t have all the answers.  At the very beginning of this life renovation, just before leaving my house, my friends, my stuff, and the community in which I knew just where to go for pretty much anything I needed, I was sharing with a friend that I wished I knew the answer and could get on with it.  She responded by saying, “if you pay attention, you’ll be given keys to the answer along the way” (insert Kung Fu’s ‘grasshopper’ here).  She finished by reminding me keys were not only places, but people, and situations.  It was a hard one to grasp, at the time.  We humans, like certainty.  Our brain likes certainty.  Part of finding self-mastery involves learning to self-soothe and reframe uncertainty.  Thanks to friends and my coaching community, these are tools in my back pocket, or are a phone call away.

I have been showered with too many keys to describe.  They show up in unexpected forms, as my friend predicted. Each has played a role in the development of that next step.     In many cases these unexpected keys bring that better loved future into real time, and point out the flaw of thinking it will come together later, wherever that is where I think I’ll have it figured out.

These keys reinforce that who we are, and the circumstances of our lives are fluid, fleeting, and nuanced.    In my old life, I didn’t have (or make)  the space and time to notice or engage with keys; missing important insights, connections, and opportunities for play.

The act of being in motion, paying attention, enjoying the present, imagining, making tweaks, and updates can be a plan – even, at times, good one.  It embodies that expression ‘live into it’.  For me, it has been a far wiser approach than staying stuck, and comfortable, and in control, wondering when I’d have all the answers to form a plan.  It’s now less about where I want to live and more about who and how I want to be in the world.   What are you waiting to do because you want all the answers in advance?   What are the keys that might remind you of the direction you want to go in terms of who you want to be, how you want to relate with others, how you want to contribute, what you want to accomplish while you have time?

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